Online Staff Report
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Justice and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have announced that Houston-based CITGO Petroleum Corp. (CITGO) has agreed to pay a $737,000 civil penalty and to implement projects to reduce harmful air pollution, resolving alleged violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA) at its petroleum refining facilities in Lemont, Ill., and Lake Charles (Westlake), La.
In addition to the penalty, the settlement, lodged in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, requires that CITGO implement projects that are expected to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including toxics, by more than 100 tons over the next five years.
“Producing fuel for cars sold in the U.S. carries a requirement to meet Clean Air Act standards,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “The innovative technologies that CITGO is required to install will reduce the impact of its fuel production on the environment and help protect communities from harmful air pollution.”
Robert G. Dreher, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said: “The terms of this settlement require projects to significantly reduce harmful air pollution, including reductions in benzene emissions and other cancer-causing air toxics. This agreement will benefit communities across the United States with cleaner, healthier air, and will bring mobile sources of pollution under control, according to the standards of the Clean Air Act.”
To reduce VOC emissions, including toxics, the settlement requires that CITGO install and maintain a geodesic dome on one of the fuel storage tanks at its Lemont refinery, as well as carbon adsorption systems on two fuel storage tanks at its Lake Charles refinery.
In a complaint filed at the same time as the settlement, EPA alleged that the Lake Charles refinery produced fuel that exceeded the refinery’s annual average emissions limit for mobile source air toxics, including benzene. EPA further alleged that CITGO failed to sample and test reformulated gasoline blendstock at its Lemont refinery, as required by the CAA.
The CAA requires that all fuel produced, imported and sold in the United States meet certain emissions standards for harmful pollutants, such as benzene and other cancer-causing air toxics. Air toxics emissions from vehicles and other mobile sources are of particular concern in the areas closest to where they are emitted, but can also be transported long distances, affecting the health and welfare of people in other geographic areas. Some of these toxic compounds can persist in the environment and bioaccumulate in the food chain, further spreading their harmful effects.
The sampling, testing, recordkeeping and reporting requirements of the fuels program provide the foundation for EPA’s compliance program. Refiners that violate these requirements undermine the integrity of the fuels regulations and hinder the agency’s ability to ensure gasoline complies with fuel quality and performance standards, potentially leading to an increase in harmful air pollution. The settlement supports EPA’s efforts to reduce toxic air pollution from facilities that threaten communities and the environment.
CITGO is a refiner and marketer of transportation fuels, lubricants, petrochemicals and other industrial products. CITGO is owned by PDV America, Inc., an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), the national oil company of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
The settlement was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. It will be available for viewing at www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.
More about the settlement: http://www2.epa.gov/enforcement/citgo-petroleum-corporation-clean-air-act-settlement.
Posted Sept. 19, 2013